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Documentary screenings of the film King in the Wilderness, will raise funds for those who have suffered state violence in Grand Rapids

January 13, 2020

The immigration justice group, GR Rapid Response to ICE, will be hosting two screenings of the powerful documentary, King in the Wilderness in the coming weeks.

King in the Wilderness chronicles the final chapters of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, revealing a conflicted leader who faced an onslaught of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. While the Black Power movement saw his nonviolence as weakness, and President Lyndon B. Johnson saw his anti-Vietnam War speeches as irresponsible, Dr. King’s unyielding belief in peaceful protest became a testing point for a nation on the brink of chaos.

Dr. King’s leadership during the bus boycotts, the sit-ins and the historic Selma to Montgomery marches is now legendary, but much of what happened afterward – during the last three years of his life – is rarely discussed. It’s a time when Dr. King said his dream “turned into a nightmare.” From the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to his assassination in 1968, King remained unshakably committed to nonviolence in the face of an increasingly unstable country.

The two screenings will be held on:

Sunday, January 19 at 3:30pm

All Souls Community Church

2727 Michigan St NE, Grand Rapids

https://www.facebook.com/events/2616924278591340/

 

Monday, January 27 at 7pm

Westminster Presbyterian Church

47 Jefferson Ave SE, Grand Rapids

https://www.facebook.com/events/618870842256745/

Both screenings are asking for a $5 suggested donation and all the funds raised will go directly to immigrant families that have been impacted by ICE violence. If you are unable to attend, you can still contribute by donating here. Again, 100% of all funds raised will go directly to immigrant families impacted by ICE violence.

The AmplifyGR proposal, conflicts of interest and the value of a Community Benefits Agreement

January 13, 2020

On Thursday, the number of people who came to the GR Planning Commission meeting to weigh in on the DeVos-created AmplifyGR development proposal, spill out into the hallway. In fact, the Planning Commission had to set up a TV on another floor, just so people could hear what was being said during the proceedings.

The Planning Commissioners began with what is standard, asking if there is any potential conflicts of interest with the commissioners. One commissioner, Zack Verhulst, said that his father works for Rockford Construction. Another commissioner asked if he had talked to his father about this project and the commissioner said, no. No one on the Planning Commission had any further questions and it was then decided that there was no conflict of interest.

What those in attendance of the GR Planning Commission Public Hearing might not have known is that Rockford Construction, along with the DeVos Foundation, had begun the process of buying up properties in 2015 (spending roughly $10 million) without the knowledge of residents in the Boston Square area, until AmplifyGR went public in the 2017.

As to the conflict of interest, the planning commissioner was not only related someone with Rockford Construction, the person in question is Mike Verhulst, who is the Vice President of Rockford Construction. Rockford Construction stands to profit handsomely, if the City of Grand Rapids approves the project. Rockford Construction’s CEO, Mike VanGessel, was present at the GR Planning Commission meeting as well, although none of the news media mentioned this and they completely ignored the potential conflict of interest with Planning Commissioner Zack Verhulst.

Some of the news media did report that there were people in support of the project, as well as detractors. This writer counted 12 people who spoke in favor of the project and 8 people who voiced opposition. Those opposing the project brought up issues of displacement and gentrification, but the most consistent comment was to ask the Planning Commissioners to hold off on making a decision, since many people felt like there were too many unanswered questions about the project, or that too many residents in the surrounding area had not been engaged in the process. The public comment period was messy at times, even uncomfortable, but democracy is often messy, especially when people could only have three minutes to express themselves. 

There were also several supporters of the project who used the argument that those who aren’t from the neighborhood should either not have a say or that some of the anti-AmplifyGR voices were the loudest. It is difficult to determine who the “loud” anti-AmplifyGR voices are, since they haven’t really been reported on in the news media. In contrast, I would argue that the loudest voices in this entire process are the ones with the most power, the DeVos/Rockford Construction/AmplifyGR voices. They are the ones who have engaged in a massive land grab in the area and they are the ones who have dictated the process from 2015 until now.

On the issue of not allowing people who are not from the neighborhood to have a say in this process, it is instructive that it is rarely acknowledged that DeVos and Rockford Construction are not from the neighborhood either. I do think that what happens in the Boston Square area and in Southtown in general, should be decided primarily by those who live in that area. I have stated this repeatedly in recent posts, but I also think that there are other ways for the residents of the Boston Square area to get what they want without subjecting themselves to the dictates of the private sector

However, those who presented from the AmplifyGR team made it clear that they would be seeking state funding for the housing projects they wish to develop in the Boston Square area. If they are seeking to use public money (likely millions by the time the project is completed), then it seems reasonable that the public should have a say in how their tax dollars will be used to support projects like the AmplifyGR development proposal. To argue that the public should not have a say in how public dollars are used is just another form of Neo-liberal capitalism, which essentially give primacy to the private sector.

In reading much of the commentary on the AmplifyGR proposal on social media, one suggestion that keeps coming up is that those who live in the Boston Square area should seeking a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). For people who live in neighborhoods where development projects are being proposed, a CBA is a way for people to leverage their collective power to get certain things/agreements in the process. This link provides some clear examples of what a Community Benefits Agreements could look like.

A Community Benefits Agreement might be the best possible outcome for those who live in the Boston Square area, but the proposed development from the DeVos-created AmplifyGR still has to get approval from the Grand Rapids City Commission. It does seem likely that the GR City Commission will support the proposal, especially with recent news coverage around the lack of investment in the southeast part of Grand Rapids. We will continue to follow this story as it unfolds and let people know when the AmplifyGR proposal goes before the City Commission.

What about Reparations for the Boston Square neighborhood?

January 8, 2020

(What follows is a letter I sent to the GR Planning Commission in response to the DeVos-created AmplifyGR proposal.)

I am writing to you today to urge you to not approve the development proposal from AmplifyGR. My objections to the AmplifyGR 9-acre proposal for the Boston Square neighborhood are as follows:

First, do we really want to allow the most powerful family in West Michigan, the DeVos family, dictating development projects in neighborhoods throughout this city? So few people can spend more than $10 million to purchase the land they did in the Boston Square neighborhood. They purchased this land in 2015, but residents of that neighborhood did not find out about it until they went public with the non-profit they created in 2017, AmplifyGR. For all their talk about this proposal being led by community input, the DeVos-created AmplifyGR staff fail to acknowledge that the community had no say in their land grab in 2015. This is an important point I believe, since it means that the acquisition of $10 million worth of property in the Boston Square neighborhood puts the DeVos family in a position of power over the residents of that neighborhood. There is no equity or justice when one family can own this much property and then claim that they want to do right by the residents of the Boston Square neighborhood.

Second, another important point about the DeVos family is that they are worth billions. Their collective net worth is not easy to determine, but based on public documentation their collective worth is an estimate $10 billion. Of course, much of their family wealth was created through the Amway Corporation, which recruits individuals with a get rich quick message that is really nothing more than a pyramid scheme, where a few people at the top get rich off the work of others. See Stephen Butterfield’s book, Amway: The Cult of Free Enterprise.

Third, the DeVos family also uses their wealth to influence public policy, at the federal, state and local level, primarily by contributing to candidates who will further their policy agenda in Kent County, in Lansing and in DC. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the DeVos family has contributed over $100 million to politicians since 1999. The politicians that the DeVos family has contributed to have consistently done the following:

  • Keep minimum wages well below what people can actually live off of.
  • Undermine and attack labor unions.
  • Making tax laws to favor the super rich, while punishing working class families.
  • Making Michigan a Right to Work State.
  • Supporting politicians that voted for the deregulation of industries like banking.
  • Supporting politicians who voted for bailing out Wall Street.
  • Getting school districts to no longer be financially responsible for public teacher pensions. They are attempting to do the same to public sector/government employees in the State of Michigan right now.
  • Pressuring local municipalities to provide massive subsidies to developers, which is means transfer public money over to companies like Rockford Construction.
  • Pushing for the privatization of public services.
  • Attacking public education in favor of Charter and other Private School systems.

All of this is to say that the billionaire class, like the DeVos family, has contributed significantly to creating a massive wealth gap in Grand Rapids. Now, they want to come to a neighborhood that has experienced tremendous poverty and disinvestment, which the DeVos family contributed to, all so they can play the savior role.

I understand what it is like to live in a neighborhood that has experienced disinvestment and structural racism. I lived in the Forgotten Corner Neighborhood on the near Southeast side of Grand Rapids for 27 years. I saw what happen to my neighborhood that has now been completely gentrified. The residents of the Boston Square neighborhood deserve to have better and affordable housing. The residents of the Boston Square neighborhood deserve to live in a community that is free of crime and free of predatory landlords. The residents of the Boston Square neighborhood could have all of that and more.

Reparations

Instead, I would propose something that would give the residents of the Boston Square neighborhood what they deserve AND remove the DeVos family from having any influence over the future of that neighborhood. The $10 million that DeVos/Rockford Construction has spent on land in the Boston Square area could be given directly to the people who live in that neighborhood, in a Community Land Trust or however the people who live there decide. In addition, the DeVos family could give an additional $20 million to the residents of the Boston Square neighborhood, money that has been taken out of the neighborhood over decades by the very same policies that the DeVos family has benefitted from. What I am suggesting is that the DeVos family pay reparations ($30 million) for the financial harm they have caused in neighborhoods like the Boston Square neighborhood. This would not only give those residents complete and total control over their future, it would fulfill an element of justice for communities who have historically been disenfranchised by white collar theft and institutionalized racism. Once the reparations are paid, AmplifyGR could dissolve, especially since the residents of the Boston Square neighborhood won’t have any need for such an entity.

How the local news media is framing the DeVos-created AmplifyGR development proposal in the Boston Square area of Grand Rapids

January 8, 2020

Ever since the MiBiz article from Sunday, December 29, there have been at least four additional local news stories about the DeVos-created AmplifyGR 9-acre development proposal for the Boston Square neighborhood in the southeast part of Grand Rapids.

It is always important deconstruct how news organization cover critical topics and how they frame the issues that they are reporting on. News framing is not just how journalists/reporters talk about the subject they are covering, but what internalized values they may bring to a particular story. For instance, the dominant narrative in the US is that whenever development is proposed, it is seen as a positive, even a necessary outcome. There might be concerns raised about development projects, but in general development projects are seen as a community benefit. This is the dominant narrative in the US and therefore it is a narrative that commercial news agencies adopt.

The first article to appear, was from MiBiz, on Sunday, December 29. MiBiz is a business-focused news agency, that includes real estate/development as a primary news category. Their article from December 29 reads like it was based on a press release that came directly from the DeVos-created entity known as AmplifyGR. The story provides a basic narrative about what the proposal includes, a listing of organizations that AmplifyGR has partner with, along with a list of development partners, including companies hired to design and build aspects of the project. There is only one person cited in the story, Jon Ippel, who is the executive director for AmplifyGR. Lastly, the article does mention that there is Grand Rapids Planning Commission meeting on January 9th, which will discuss the project, but MiBiz doesn’t tell readers that there is a public hearing about the project on January 9. In addition, the only image included was one that AmplifyGR provided, which is a rendering of the geographical area of the project.

The next news story about the DeVos-created AmplifyGR project was done by posted on Michigan Radio on January 5. The Michigan Radio story is based upon a public meeting that was held on Saturday, January 4, at the Boston Square Neighborhood Association. The neighborhood group had posted on Facebook that they were hosting the event, so community members came to learn about the project. Someone this writer had spoken to, who attended this meeting, said that AmplifyGR came and also did a formal presentation at the community meeting.

There were two people cited in the story, with the first being the president of the neighborhood association who said he was skeptical about the project and was concerned about the possibility of gentrification. The other source cited in the story was a staff person from AmplifyGR, someone who assured those in attendance that this project would not displace people. The story also mentioned that there was a GR Planning Commission meeting on January 9, but no mention that there was a public hearing about the proposal from AmplifyGR. The only image used in the story was taken  by Michigan Radio, which showed the AmplifyGR staff person and a map of the project area.

MLive ran a story that was posted on Monday, January 6, with a headlined that read, DeVos-backed nonprofit aims to transform Grand Rapids neighborhood. The MLive article was based upon their reporter going to the Boston Square Neighborhood to interview people and to take pictures of the area. The MLive story does provide a basic narrative about the project and some background on what has happened since 2015, when the project began with the purchasing on nearly two dozen properties at the cost of $10 million.

The MLive article cites the executive director of AmplifyGR, someone who serves on AmplifyGR’s neighborhood advisory committee, the executive director of Oakdale Neighbors and a rental property owner who has an office in the Boston Square neighborhood. It should be mentioned that the Oakdale Neighbors received $273,500 from the DeVos family in recent years. The only critical voice of the four cited was the rental property owner and his comments were about the demographic of people in the area and what they could afford in regards to rent.

The MLive article provides a significant amount of space to AmplifyGR to talk about all the positive things the organization has done in the past two years in the neighborhood, but it also lists who sits on the AmplifyGR board, which includes Cheri & Maria DeVos. There are 17 pictures that accompany the article and a link to the what AmplifyGR will be presenting. There is mention that AmplifyGR will be presenting at a GR Planning Commission meeting, but there is no mention of the date for that meeting or that there is a public hearing on January 9.

On Monday night, the DeVos-created AmplifyGR decided to host another meeting for people who wanted to see their development proposal. This event resulted in two more local news stories, one from WOOD TV8 and WZZM 13.

The channel 8 story provides a basic narrative of the proposed project. The two sources cited in the story are the executive director of Oakdale Neighbors and a staff member of AmplifyGR. The channel 8 reporter then says that there are concerns about gentrification, based on what has happened in other areas of the city like wealthy street, but both people cited in the story say that won’t or doesn’t have to happen in this case. The story does mention that the DeVos-created AmplifyGR will be presenting to the GR Planning Commission on Thursday, but there was no mention that there was a public hearing.

The WZZM 13 story also reported from the open house that AmplifyGR was hosting and did address concerns about gentrification, but the only person who viewers heard from talking about gentrification was an AmplifyGR staff person and they believed that would not be an issue with this project. The channel 13 web-based article does use AmplifyGR-provided images for the proposal. There was also mention that AmplifyGR would present to the GR City Planning Commission on Thursday at 1pm, but again there was no mention that this was a public hearing.

Local News omissions

There were some obvious omissions in the local news coverage of the DeVos-created AmplifyGR development proposal. The most obvious was the fact that none of the stories mentioned that the GR Planning Commission was hosting a Public Hearing on January 9 at 1pm. This is a significant omission, since all of the 5 stories failed to let the public know that they could weigh in on this proposal.

Another significant omission with the local news coverage were voices of those who were not part of AmplifyGR or the organizations collaborating with them. While there were numerous mentions about gentrification, there was only one person cited in all five stories who expressed concern about the possibility of gentrification in this project. None of the news agencies sought out other voices in the community, instead they relied on AmplifyGR staff or those directly connected to the project. Such a limited scope of perspectives not only excludes different perspectives, it sends the message (by omission) that there are no dissenting voices.

A third significant omission is the lack of context and the failure of reporters to ask more probing questions. The MLive article did provide some background information, but did not follow that information up with more poignant questions. None of the news agencies talked about how structural racism has played into the disinvestment in the Boston Square neighborhood and non of the news agencies raised issues around the fact that the DeVos/Rockford Construction tandem had begun buying land in the Boston Square area in 2015, but didn’t tell residents until mid-2017. There were some news agencies that identified this project as a DeVos-back project, yet there was no exploration of what that could mean. In other words, none of the local news agencies asked a question like, why did the most powerful family in West Michigan create this non-profit and should people be concerned about their short term and long term intentions? This question is an important one and it is exactly why GRIID has been reporting on the DeVos-created AmplifyGR work since May of 2017

Campaign promises and Line 5

January 6, 2020

During the election cycle of 2018, then Gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer and candidate for Attorney General, Dana Nessel, both made the promise that they would shut down the Enbridge oil pipeline that runs through through the state and under Lake Michigan, also known as Line 5. 

It has been a year, yet Line 5 continues to carry millions of gallons of oil, putting the Great Lakes at risk.

Governor Whitmer at times has used rhetoric that she will close Line 5, yet she continues to have talks and negotiations with the Enbridge Corporation. Attorney General Dana Nessel has initiated some legal actions around Line 5, but there hasn’t been much coming from her office on how and when Line 5 will close

In fact, in a June 27 communication from Governor Whitmer, it reads: 

“The governor has never viewed litigation as the best solution to this problem, and for this reason she entered negotiations with Enbridge about the possible construction of a tunnel. Her reasonable requirement has been that the dual pipelines through the Straits cease operation at a date certain, after allowing for a period of transition. Enbridge, however, has insisted that it be allowed to run oil through the Great Lakes indefinitely. Rather than negotiating, Enbridge walked away and filed a lawsuit. Today, Governor Whitmer filed her response asking the court to dismiss Enbridge’s lawsuit. 

From this statement, it seems to this writer that Governor Whitmer is NOT opposed to Enbridge’s proposal to build a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. This is what the Enbridge has been pursuing for months now, with all of their advertising campaigns in Michigan, to get approval to build a tunnel under the lake and to continue to pump millions of gallons of oil. In addition to the advertising dollars that Enbridge is spending to convince the public, they are spending lots of money lobbying the Michigan Legislature, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. 

There are numerous environmental groups that oppose the proposed Enbridge tunnel, but their efforts to stop seemed to be limited to public education and engaging in their own talks with the Governor’s office. 

Have we not learned anything from Indigenous resistance to the current climate disaster? Every major battle against oil pipelines in the US and Canada are being led by Indigenous communities. These communities get the importance of doing Direct Action against companies like Enbridge, especially in the midst of the current climate crisis. Safety isn’t the only issue. We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels if we want to have a future for our children and for the non-human communities.

We cannot put our faith in elected officials. Over and over again they make promises, but rarely do they keep them. We must take matters into our own hands and organize for the kind of future that we want to have. We can’t vote our way to climate justice.

GRIID encourages you to watch the following two videos. The first puts the current climate crisis in proper context and the second video shows us an example of what it means to be a climate justice warrior. These are the struggles that we need to support and this is the kind of action we need to take.

Making sense of US foreign policy – Part III: The US has been waging war on Iranians since 1953

January 6, 2020

In Part I,  we provided a framework for how to critically examine US Foreign Policy. In Part II, we made it clear that US imperialism is a bi-partisan affair, demonstrating that there is no fundamental difference between who controls the White House or Congress, as both the Republicans and Democrats are deeply committed to US imperialism. 

In Part III, we want to look at how the US has been waging war on the Iranian people since 1953. With the Trump administration’s killing of a high ranking Iranian official and sending several thousand US troops to the region, it is understandable that people mobilized over the weekend to express their opposition to a potential war with Iran. However, it is vitally important for us to take the long-view of US foreign policy as it relates to Iran, since the last four generations of Iranians have experienced one form or another of US imperialism.

CIA Coup in 1953

In his conversations with the Shah, Kermit Roosevelt said he had at his disposal “the equivalent of about $1 million” and several “extremely competent, professional organizers” who could “distribute pamphlets, organize mobs, keep track of the opposition – you name it, they’ll do it.” He described Operation Ajax as based on “four lines of attack” First, a campaign in mosques, the press, and the streets would undermine Mossadegh’s popularity. Second, royalist military officers would deliver the decree dismissing him. Third, mobs would take control of the streets. Fourth, General Zahedi would emerge triumphantly and accept the Shah’s nomination as prime minister.

This excerpt of the CIA planning for the coup in Iran, is from Stephen Kinzer’s book, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. The CIA coup was prompted by the nationalization of Iran’s oil in 1951. Iran’s oil had been under the control of the British Empire before the nationalization, but like many countries in the Global South at that time, Mossadegh sought to use Iranian resources to benefit the Iranian people. However, Mossadegh did offer the British compensation for nationalizing the oil, included a continuing 25% of net profits from the oil and retention of all British oil employees.

The British responded with military threats and sanctions, which had hurt the an already struggling Iranian economy. The Truman administration supported the British position, as did the Eisenhower administration, but it was the Eisenhower administration, specifically John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State) and Allen Dulles (Director of the CIA) that gave the green light to Kermit Roosevelt to implement Operation Ajax.

The CIA also sent Major General Norman Schwarzkopf Sr. to persuade the exiled Shah to return to rule Iran. Schwarzkopf trained the security forces that would become known as SAVAK to secure the shah’s hold on power.

When the Shah returned to power he quickly sought to crack down on pro-democracy forces and paid off the Islamic parties to support his rule. However, over time, many of the mullahs would reject the Shah’s plans for Iran, specifically his desire to Westernize the country. With the Islamic leadership increasingly becoming critical, the Shah began to repress Islamic institutions. In March 1963, the Shah’s security forces attacked Faizeiyejh Theological School, arresting dozens of students and killing two. The survivors ran to the nearby home of Iran’s most respected cleric, the Ayatollah Khomeini.

US governments would continue to support the Shah of Iran, all the way from Eisenhower through Jimmy Carter. The support they offered was both economy and military support, despite the fact that the Iranian security forces, SAVAK, had essentially become a death squad. In 1976, Amnesty International announced that Iran had the worst human rights record in the world. Iran’s horrendous human rights record, didn’t stop US President Jimmy Carter from inviting the Shah to Washington in 1978, toasting the Iranian leader by saying, “Iran under the leadership of the Shah is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.

Just weeks after visiting with Jimmy Carter, the Shah escalated his repression and killed  over a thousand protestors on September 8, 1978, a day known as Black Friday in Iran.

Of course, a year later, the Shah would be forced to flee Iran, as the opposition forces coalesced behind Khomeini. Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller, friends of the Shah, lobbied to bring him to the US. Their efforts were successful.

Unfortunately for many Iranians, the Ayatollah turned out to be as ruthless as the Shah and he began torturing and murdering dissidents. In addition, the Iranians took the US Embassy in February of 1979, holding Americans hostage. The Carter administration was unable to bargain for their release and according to investigative reporter Robert Parry, a separate bargain was made with a group of ex-CIA officers who were supporting a Reagan-Mush presidential campaign. The bargain was made in October of 1980, in what became known as the October Surprise, since Khomeini made a deal with the US to release hostages in exchange for $40 million is US military equipment. The US also required a list of known Iranian leftists, which Khomeini rounded up and executed.

At this time the US news media had made Iran a pariah state, filled with evil muslims. In this context, the Reagan administration had no problem demonizing the Middle Eastern country. The Iran-Iraq war began in 1980 and lasted a decade, resulting 200,000 Iranian deaths. The US provided weapons to both sides, but only Chemical weapons to Iraq, which used them on Iranians.

Despite the ongoing animus towards Iran, the US sold even more weapons to Iran in 1986, which was a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. However, the sale of US weapons to Iran was part of a much larger US foreign policy objective, one which would play out over the next year, in what was referred to as the Iran/Contra Scandal.

The Iran Contra scandal was the biggest scandal since Watergate, it dominated the news starting in late 1986, when word broke about the administration’s illegal backing of Contra rebels in Nicaragua and illicit sales of high-tech weapons to the Islamic Republic of Iran.  When President Ronald Reagan acknowledged that the two operations were connected it raised the stakes even higher, including rumblings for impeachment. However, Oliver North became the fall guy for the Reagan administration, leaving many members of the Reagan White House untouched. For details on the Iran/Contra scandal, see Malcolm Byrne and Peter Kornbluh’s important book, The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassified History.

The Clinton administration continued to treat Iran as a parian state, adding increased sanctions. In May of 1995, Clinton signed an executive order prohibiting all American trade, trade financing, loans and financial services to the Islamic Republic. To further punish Iran, Clinton signed into law in August of 1996 a bill that imposed a secondary boycott on foreign companies and governments investing more than $40 million in Iran’s oil and natural gas industry. This law provided an array of additional sanctions as well.

After the US war with Iraq in 1991, the US was also rethinking some of its foreign policy in the region. Israel was the main US partner in the Middle East and Israel began pushing the US to adopt even more punitive measures against Iran. The main issue for Israel was Iran’s interest in developing a nuclear industry. The reality is that Israel is the only country in that region, which possesses nuclear weapons. For the last 20 years, this issue has dominated US policy towards Iran.

The George W. Bush administration made Iran part of the Axis of Evil, along with North Korea and Syria. Iran, during the Bush administration claimed, was exporting terrorism and needed to be overthrown. This was an interesting claim, especially since the United Nations had ended disbanded their special committee on Iran in 1998, stating that human rights violations were significantly reduced with the Khatami government.

The Bush administration then began its war/occupation of Iraq in 2003, which took their attention away from Iran momentarily. However, the doctrine of pre-emptive strike in Iraq was now sounding like it could apply to Iran. All of this rhetoric was never based in fact, since Iran was not exporting terrorism and not a serious threat in the region. In fact, the real threat in the region was the US, especially to Iran, since the US had dozens of military bases in several countries, essentially surrounding Iran.

The Bush policy was then adopted and continued by the Obama administration. Much of the same rhetoric was used and Iran was still being isolated by the US. However, in 2014, the US government decided to use a different tactic to pressure Iran to accept a no nuclear position. Iran eventually agreed to this position and the US media celebrated the outcome. What was instructive, particularly about US media coverage during these negotiations is that the US news media failed to ask some fundamental questions during the negotiations. First, there was rarely any acknowledgement that Israel possessed nuclear weapons, even though the US repeatedly denied it. Secondly, why was it acceptable for the US to have the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet, but Iran could not develop even a nuclear power program? The US is the only country to have used nuclear weapons on another country (Japan), so how does the US have any moral authority on this matter? Of course, the US doesn’t, but they are the most powerful nation on the planet and remain largely unchallenged.

For an excellent investigation into the past 20 years of US policy with Iran, specifically how the nuclear issue became central to this policy, see Gareth Porter’s excellent book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

As the Trump administration deliberates on relations with Iran and whether or not to go to war, it is vital that we familiarize ourselves with this history and begin to realize that the US has been waging war on the Iranian people since 1953.

Resources

Trailer for new documentary on the CIA Coup in 1953, entitled Coup 53 https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=uSK6wdqo0xY&feature=emb_logo

National Security Archives documents on US/Iran Relations

https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/project/iran-us-relations

All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, by Stephen Kinzer

Killing Hope: Us Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII, by William Blum

Boomerang: How Our Covert Wars Have Created Enemies Across the Middle East and Brought Terror to America, by Mark Zepezauer

Lying for Empire: How to Commit War Crimes With a Straight Face, by David Model

Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East, by Rashid Khalidi

Inventing the Axis of Evil: The Truth About North Korea, Iran and Syria, by Bruce Cummings, Ervand Abrahamian and Moshe Ma’Oz

Who Rules the World, by Noam Chomsky

Retargeting Iran, by David Barsamian

(Photos credited to John Rothwell)

Reporting on Climate Change while taking money from Enbridge

January 3, 2020

In the most recent issue of MiBiz, there is a short article about statewide Climate Change goals on page 29, headlined, Climate Change Outlook: Advocates expect ambitious statewide climate change goals in 2020

The article is not particularly compelling, since it provides just a few comments from DEQ staffer and the Director of the Michigan Climate Action Network. The Michigan Climate Action Network director, Kate Madigan,  is using the “good climate policy is good for Michigan’s economy” argument, although the reporter doesn’t press her on what that means or how their goals will be achieved. In fact, the article doesn’t address how the state legislature is pretty compromised, especially considering how much elected officials get from energy corporations during election cycles. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network provides all that data, which you can search by elected officials here

However, it makes complete sense that MiBiz would not really want to ask hard questions about Climate Change, especially considering that on two pages before the article with Michigan Climate Action Network, there was a full page ad from energy giant  and Line 5 operator, Enbridge.

The Enbridge ad was presenting the global energy company like all there ads do, as a responsible company, essentially guaranteeing that the oil tunnel they are proposing to build under Lake Michigan will not leak. Enbridge makes this promise, despite the fact that there are hundreds of documented incidents of pipeline malfunction that Enbridge is responsible for in the past, according to World350.org

Unfortunately, MiBiz is more interested in advertising dollars than they are in facts.